Alaska's Heat Wave Ignites Fires as Glaciers Rapidly Melt
Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory / GIF via Discover Magazine
Alaskan glaciers have lost 75 billion metric tons of ice every year from 1994 through 2013, The Washington Post′s Chris Mooney reported from the study, which was recently accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Mooney also reported that the Columbia Glacier (see GIF above) alone has been sending 4 billion metric tons of water into the oceans every year.
Alaska's melting glaciers are "punching far above their weight" when it comes to contributing to sea level rise, CBS News's Michael Casey pointed out, referring to how Alaska only holds one percent of the Earth's glacial ice volume, with most of the Earth's ice found in Antarctica and Greenland's ice sheets.
But as the authors of the new study explained, “Despite Greenland’s ice covered area being 20 times greater than that of Alaska, losses in Alaska were fully one third of the total loss from the ice sheet during 2005-2010.”
For the study, a University of Alaska Fairbanks and U.S. Geological Survey research team analyzed surveys of 116 glaciers in the Alaska region across 19 years to estimate ice loss from melting and iceberg calving, according to a news release.
“Thinking about the future, it means that rates of loss from Alaska are unlikely to decline, since surface melt is the predominant driver, and summer temperatures are expected to continue to increase," said Chris Larsen, a research associate professor with the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and lead author of the study.
"There is a lot of momentum in the system, and Alaska will continue to be a major driver of global sea level change in upcoming decades,” he added.
— Am Geophysical Union (@theAGU) June 17, 2015
Not only are Alaska's glaciers melting, the northernmost U.S. state experienced record heat at the end of May where parts of Alaska recorded temperatures higher than in Arizona.
Unseasonably high temperatures, unpredictable winds and low humidity have been the perfect storm for wildfires to break out in the state, which recorded its warmest May ever. Some of the major blazes have threatened hundreds of homes and forced numerous evacuations, the Associated Press reported. As of Thursday morning, a total of 56 fires were actively burning around the state.
— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) June 15, 2015
"It's in the 80s right now, and we usually don't get that kind of weather," Casey Cook, the emergency manager for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, told the news organization. "So all those combine to make it a very heavy fire fuel area."
— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) June 15, 2015
The above average temperatures this spring are a continuation of an incredibly mild winter with record low snowfall forcing the Iditarod dog sled race in Anchorage to move north 300 miles to Fairbanks. Additionally, a ski resort outside of Juneau had to close because of low snowfall and warm temperatures that inhibited snow-making.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›